17 May

The Life Sciences Industry Is Using the Cloud

Cloud computing is transforming the life sciences industry, driven by cloud migrations in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. The globalization of pharmaceutical companies and the demand for healthcare research is leading companies to turn to the cloud for cost-effective solutions. One fundamental benefit the cloud offers these companies is the ability to globalize their the workforce at relatively low costs. Additionally, the cloud streamlines R&D processes, lowers technology infrastructure and licensing costs, reduces personal training burdens, increases flexibility and expands storage capability.

As pharmaceutical companies exploit the benefits of moving to the cloud, the global healthcare cloud computing market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.5 percent between 2015 and 2020, reaching an estimated value of $9.48 billion, estimates Markets and Markets. This migration to the cloud parallels a broader shift reverberating throughout the life sciences industry. Here are a few ways life sciences companies are tapping the opportunities offered by the cloud.


Cloud Research Collaboration

For life sciences companies in a global market, one benefit the cloud confers is the ability to exchange data efficiently for collaborative research and development. For example, to democratize access to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), the National Cancer Institute is funding the Institute for Systems Biology Cancer Genomics Cloud (ISB-CGS). The ISB-CGS serves as a virtual depository for TCGA data, which lowers barriers for researchers to access this valuable data. The ISB-CGS also provides big data storage and analytics tools to help researchers analyze this data.

Another organization exploiting the cloud’s big data analytics capability is the European Bioinformatics Institute. EBI moved its genome browser tool, Ensembl, to the cloud to speed up access to information. One company benefiting from this is bioinformatics provider Eagle Genomics. It uses Ensembl in conjunction with other cloud-based tools to develop and deploy data processing pipelines faster than would be possible if individual users had to upload their data and configure Ensembl themselves.


Personalized Medicine

Cloud-based genome databases are enabling healthcare providers to deliver personalized medical treatments to clients based on their genetics and individual makeup. For example, Amazon Web Services is lending its cloud platform to a number of healthcare providers to help them deliver this type of personalized medical care.

AWS provides storage and management services for INOVA Translational Medicine Institute so their researchers can develop personalized treatments for babies suffering from congenital disorders and older patients with cancer-causing genetic mutations. AWS also provides services to the Center for Computational Biology & Bioinformatics at the University of California, San Diego to deliver next-generation sequencing data. CCBB uses this data to identify individual molecular differences for applications, such as analyzing tumor DNA.


Virtualized Supply Chain Management

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is leveraging the cloud to streamline the management of its international supply chain. With 90 plants on six continents, over 300 suppliers, 175 distribution centers, 35,000 SKU numbers and 2,109 global logistics lanes to manage, Pfizer’s supply chain is enormously complex.

To manage it more efficiently, Pfizer virtualized its supply chain by adopting a cloud-based solution from GT Nexus. By using a cloud-based platform, Pfizer and its external providers can now share the same platform instead of each depending on their own proprietary operating systems and data sets. Updates to the network can now be managed smoothly, and they no longer require new integrations by Pfizer. By using this system, Pfizer has achieved its goal of 7-second information access time for its users.

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